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2022 Summit Schedule

Welcome to the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit.

This schedule is subject to change. Please check this page for updates.


Registration is SOLD OUT.

Connection Information

Connection information will be sent to registrants before the event.

Pre-Conference Events

Monday morning will feature pre-conference events.

Auction information

We are inviting you to join the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority Auction! August 12th - 23rd in conjunction with the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit. Please TEXT "bigskyrail" to 76278 or visit https://bigskyrail.givesmart.com to register.


See the latest Speakers list here.

Time Zone

Times are shown in Mountain Time.

Meeting Area Floor Plan

Click to enlarge.

Monday, August 22

9:00 am - 12:00 noon - FRA / Build America Bureau Office Hours

Reservations to participate in discussions with FRA staff on

  • Funding programs
  • Safety programs
  • Interstate compacts

are FULL. Please join the FRA staff for sessions later in the conference.

10:30 - 11:00 am - GNW Leadership Meeting
Working Group

GNW informal working group meeting. All welcome.

11:00 - 12:00 noon - Returning Passenger Trains to a Station Near You: Why and How
Charles Hamilton, All Aboard Northwest

Whether you're concerned about the environment, job creation or ease of travel, expansion of rail will bring significant benefits to the Pacific NW. Ultra high speed rail from Vancouver, BC to Portland, OR is only one part of the rail network that we need. We can take advantage of the current massive investment from the Federal Government into passenger rail to build a seamless region-wide rail service.

Join representatives from All Aboard Northwest to discuss how the federal funding available for rail transportation can provide:

  • Opportunities to share our priorities through the Corridor Identification Program
  • Opportunities to collaborate across state lines through Interstate Rail Compacts
  • Information from the Federal Railroad Administration’s upcoming studies of previous passenger rail routes, and potential new ones.
11:00 am - 1:00 pm - Registration and Check-in
1:00 pm - Official Welcome and Opening Remarks (video)
Dave Strohmaier, Bill Cole, Norma Gourneau, Amit Bose
  • Welcome and Summit kickoff – Dave Strohmaier (5 minutes)
  • Billings Welcome – Mayor Bill Cole (2-3 minutes)
  • Tribal Welcome – Norma Gourneau, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council (2-3 minutes)
  • Video welcomes – Sen. Jon Tester
  • Video welcome – Sen. Steve Daines
  • Amit Bose introduction – Dave Strohmaier (2 minutes)
  • FRA Administrator Amit Bose (begin approx. 1:15-1:20)
2:00 pm - Session 1: FRA presentation (video)
Lyle Leitelt, Katie List
  • Section 22214 Study
  • Corridor ID Program

Senior Federal Railroad Administration officials will share information on new and ongoing FRA projects and programs to expand and improve passenger rail service.

3:00 pm - Session 2: Transportation Equity (video)
Moderator: Dan Bucks
  • Video welcome - North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum
  • Jim Mathews, RPA
  • Meredith Richards, RPA
  • John Robert Smith, Transportation for America
  • Anna Zivarts (remote), Disability Mobility Initiative

Passenger rail service in this country is hardly equitable, with most service concentrated in the “Northeast corridor.” This panel will focus on the need to better connect the rest of the country, especially across the vast distances of the West, to the national rail network. Railroads helped build the West, now the people of the West deserve to have the same equity in their ransportation options, including rail service, that most of the rest of the country already enjoys.

4:00 pm - Session 3: Quality of Life impacts/benefits (video)
Moderator: Gary Wirt
  • Tyler Amundson, Executive Director, Big Sky Senior Services, Billings, MT
  • Nate Kavanagh (remote), President, Cut Bank, MT Chamber of Commerce
  • Phil Rico, Mayor of Trinidad, CO
  • Hal Gard, Jacobs
  • Breck Lebegue, WA Physicians for Social Responsibility (remote)

This panel will discuss the myriad ways access to passenger rail service can help improve the quality of life for communities serviced by it. From helping improve access to critical healthcare for rural senior citizens, disabled persons and veterans, to providing students another option for transportation to their colleges or back home, to keeping families better connected for the holidays, to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries there are a wide range of quality of life benefits that passenger rail service can bring to local communities.

5:00 pm - Session 4: Tribal impacts/benefits (video)
Moderator: Martin Charlo, CSKT
  • Arlando Teller, USDOT (remote)
  • Darrel Hernandez, Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • HollyAnna Littlebull, Yakama Nation (remote)
  • Dana Miller, Yakama Nation (remote)

This panel will examine the benefits – economic, social and cultural – to Indian Country of being better connected to passenger rail service, and how access to that service could help uplift and improve the prospects of tribal communities.

6:00 pm - Session 5: Economic impacts/benefits (video)
Moderator: Juan Escano
  • Thomas Freyer, Alberta Regional Rail
  • Jim Mathews, RPA
  • Bruce Agnew, PNWER
  • Laura Shabe, Jacobs
  • Spencer Dodge, HDR

This panel session will examine the numerous ways passenger rail service economically benefits states and local communities, from direct job creation, to increased tourism, to increased opportunities for entrepreneurs, to reducing the costs of infrastructure repair and maintenance, panelists will discuss and explain how investment in passenger rail service is an economic winner.

7:00 pm - Buffet Dinner
  • Screening of In Transit
  • More FRA Office Hours/Q&A
  • Cash bar available

Tuesday, August 23

8:00 am - Breakout Sessions
Mark Quam, Charles Hamilton, Scott Rogers (remote), Dan Bilka, Mike Christensen
  • Breakout #1 (Hart Albin): Existing Service – Protect, Enhance, Improve (not recorded)
  • Breakout #2 (Main Stage): Other Future Routes

The Pioneer and North Coast routes are not the end, only the beginning. These breakout sessions will focus on what people and communities can do to preserve, enhance, and grow the existing services (Empire Builder, California Zephyr, etc) and outline what the real needs are in our region for true connectivity; a true national passenger rail network.

9:00 am - Session 6: 22214 Study Routes (video)
Dave Strohmaier, Elaine Clegg
  • North Coast Limited/Hiawatha Route
  • Pioneer Route
  • Other Routes

This session will take a deep dive into the two former Amtrak routes – the North Coast Hiawatha and the Pioneer – that have already been confirmed to be included in the Section 22214 Study directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed by Congress in November 2021, as well as examine other discontinued routes in the Northwest that may also be included in that study. Section 22214 of the IIJA directs the US Department of Transportation to conduct a study of discontinued long-distance rail routes, with a report to be delivered to Congress within two years with its findings and recommendations on which routes Congress should fund the restoration of. Section 22214 also allows exploration of potential new long-distance routes, of which the FRA may address other key potential routes in this session as well as the previous break-out sessions.

10:00 am - Session 7: Environmental Benefits (video)
Moderator: Charles Hamilton, All Aboard Northwest
  • Tim Gould (remote), Sierra Club of Washington
  • Dava Kaitala, Jacobs
  • Cat Dobbs, HDR
  • Abe Zumwalt, David L. Evans Associates

This panel will examine the environmental benefits of expanding America’s passenger rail service and encouraging more Americans to travel by train. Trains have a far lower carbon footprint and create far fewer carbon emissions than automobiles and airplanes, making investment in rail service not just an investment in the nation’s transportation and economic future, but an investment in improving and better protecting our country’s environment and helping mitigate the effects of climate change.

11:00 am - Session 8: Host Railroad Collaboration (video)
Moderator: Barry Green
  • Jim Tylick, BNSF
  • Andy Garland, Montana Rail Link
  • Dava Kaitala, Jacobs
  • Spencer Dodge, HDR
  • Bruce Agnew, PNWER
  • Andrew Johnsen, Columbia Strategic Consulting Group

Panelists in this session will discuss and share success stories and best practices for how passenger rail operators and advocates can work together and successfully collaborate with host railroads to expand and improve passenger rail service.

12:00 noon - Lunch Service
Oleksandr Kamyshin, CEO of Ukrainian Railways

Video greeting - Rep. Peter deFazio

1:00 pm - Session 9: Passenger Rail/Freight Rail Synchronicity (video)
Moderator: Dan Bilka, All Aboard Northwest
  • Meredith Richards, RPA
  • Dava Kaitala, Jacobs
  • Cat Dobbs, HDR
  • Rick Harnish, High Speed Rail Alliance

This panel will focus on tearing down the myth that has built up that passenger rail service and freight rail service are incompatible and somehow diametrically opposed. Panelists will discuss how investment in passenger rail service is also beneficial for freight rail service, and vice versa, and how the US needs to make a firm commitment to make serious investments in its rail infrastructure to improve and expand both freight rail and passenger rail service for a number of reasons, including economic, social, environmental and national defense.

2:00 pm - Session 10: IIJA Analysis and Opportunities (video)
Moderator: Sean Jeans-Gail, RPA
  • Leo Wetula, Build America Bureau
  • Andrew Johnsen, PNWER
  • Laura Shabe, Jacobs
  • Alexander Khalfin, Amtrak
  • Deborah Kobrin, FRA

This session will explore the opportunities for passenger rail investment, improvement and expansion created by the IIJA, commonly known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.”

3:00 pm - Session 11: Political/Legal Process of Rail Route Restoration (video)
Moderator: Margie MacDonald, Retired MT State Senator, Billings
  • Karen Hedlund, US Surface Transportation Board
  • Sen. Chris Gorsek, Oregon Senate Rail Caucus (remote)
  • Peter Fletcher, Executive Director, La Crosse Area Planning Committee (remote)
  • Scott Rogers, Vice President, Governmental Affairs, Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce (remote)
  • Jim Mathews, RPA

The final session will discuss how rail policy directed by the IIJA and other legislation actually is put into action on the ground, and the ins and outs of what it takes to actually restore passenger rail routes in the Greater Northwest that haves been out of service for decades.

4:00 pm - Summit Wrap-Up and Calls to Action
BSPRA, AANW, AAWA, AAMN, AORTA, Utah RPA, RPA, chairpersons and top officials present
6:00 pm - Gala Dinner w/keynote speaker and auction at Billings Depot
Meredith Richards, Chair, Rail Passengers Association

Steven Gores, Entertainment

Passed Hors d’oeuvres Course
Duck Pate with Crostini / Candied Bacon

Salad Course
Five Green Salad w. Huckleberry Vinaigrette

Entree Course
Option 1 - 12oz Bison Ribeye with Herbed Butter / Whipped Potatoes / Roasted Asparagus
Option 2 - Rainbow Trout with Butter Crumb
Option 3 - Vegetarian

Dessert Course
New York Cheesecake, Tuxedo-Style